FRIDAY 12 FEB 2021 11:23 AM


Josephine Ornago, owner of OutspokenPR, speaks to Communicate magazine about how Covid-19 changed the relationship between PR and their clients and stakeholders, the importance of truly listening to ones clients, and the benefits of adopting a tailored PR approach rather than a one-size-fits-all.

What are the benefits of avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach  to PR and instead tailoring and understanding every company?

Thinking that just because one approach, one campaign, worked well for a look-alike client or in a similar context is risky business. Every client is unique. Each has specific pain-points, founding values, objectives and conditions on how the latter can be reached. Thinking these can be overlooked when developing messaging for a communications strategy or campaign means alienating loyal customers and stakeholders, confusing prospects and setting the company up for an avalanche of problems further along the road.

Mish-mash messages confuse potential clients while mis-communication can cost you sales.Knowing the business’ requirements and understanding its audience, especially when this is a niche, is the only way to develop communications that really cut through the noise.One of the best bits of advice I was ever given was sales advice and it works well when applied to PR too; I was warned not to go into prospect meetings to sell but to find out about their challenges, their objectives and only then to think about what I could sell them. I can’t say this is infallible, but I think it’s certainly the most intelligent approach

Beware of anyone that comes in with all the answers and doesn’t take time to find out about your business, how you work, your values and your history. They are hoping to take a short-cut that will most certainly leave you and your brand short-changed.

Why do you believe that engaging and effective communications can only begin with listening?

We all have that one acquaintance that just blabs and blabs without ever stopping to draw breath or- God forbid!- listen to what the other party has to say. I think we can all agree they typically bring very little to the conversation and are generally ignored. That’s what PR without listening looks like.

Without a solid basis, PR becomes a mindless megaphone, amplifying messages that are irrelevant, not interesting or even completely wrong. The solid base you need is good old-fashioned listening.

In the wider sense, listening should also include a lot of reading and independent research before the agency is really able to really “hear” the market and its needs. In addition to this engaging with relevant social media platforms and key industry influencers will help form a true understanding of the media environment you are entering. This will ensure that anything you do release hits the sweet-spot. 

How can clients truly gain their audience’s trust?

I’m a huge believer in substantiation of claims. An agency worth its salt will use what they have learnt from the market to help you do this. Finding out about your audience and how to position your company with the media means, for example, reading the key verticals that land in your prospects’ and clients’ desks, subscribing to the same newsletters they receive and engaging with the same social media accounts. An agency with a good understanding of the vertical sectors you operate in, as well as your core sector, is at a huge advantage as they are able to analyse competitors and market movements more clearly. Proving you are the expert in the field, not just saying it, therefore relies on factual intelligence.

In what ways has Covid-19 changed the relationship between PR and their clients and stakeholders?

The social distancing imposed by Covid-19 has driven a whole lot of activity online. International trades shows (we had the pleasure to work on the NAB Show and the IBC Show last year), summits and debates have all moved online taking up audience bandwidth with even more messages added to a plethora of press releases, podcasts and vlogs. Emerging in this volume of information is certainly harder than it was before.

The media are therefore even more selective of the news and views they choose to relay and as a result, businesses that relied on broad-brush, generic broadcast PR have struggled to stay in the news cycle. It’s a process of natural selection where the best message wins and only truly tailored and knowledgeable communications, based on the fine art of listening to client and market can make it through.